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caption: Pharmacists with CVS look out of the front entrance of the Life Care Center of Kirkland ahead of the administration of the first Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccinations for staff members on Monday, December 28, 2020, in Kirkland. 
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Pharmacists with CVS look out of the front entrance of the Life Care Center of Kirkland ahead of the administration of the first Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccinations for staff members on Monday, December 28, 2020, in Kirkland.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Pandemic updates in the Northwest (December 21-30)

This post is archived. Read latest updates here.

As of Wednesday, December 30, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 3,420 Covid-19 related deaths; 232,993 confirmed cases; a 1.3% death rate among positive cases.
  • Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases is nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30

Department of Corrections distributing Covid-19 vaccines to some staff and inmates

4 p.m. — The Washington state Department of Corrections has begun vaccinating inmates and staff who fall within the priority category of Phase 1A — those considered most vulnerable and likely to contract the virus.

Under Phase 1A guidelines, staff who work with geriatric inmates and staff caring for and working near Covid-positive inmates qualify for the vaccine. Geriatric inmates with chronic medical needs also qualify.

On Dec. 28, some staff who qualified at the Airway Heights Corrections Center — where 1,430 inmates have contracted the coronavirus — began receiving vaccinations, according to the department of corrections.

However, staff and inmates are not required to get the vaccine when it’s offered to them, corrections officials said. If they later change their mind, they will receive the vaccine as long as there’s supply available.

The department of corrections said they anticipate receiving enough vaccine doses for every staff member and inmate who meets the Phase 1A priority criteria, and additional doses are expected in the coming weeks.

— Ashley Hiruko

Inslee extends statewide business restrictions until January 11

11:15 a.m. — Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced that current Covid-19 business restrictions, which were previously set to expire on January 4, 2021, have been extended by a week until 11:59 p.m. on January 11.

The extension of the proclamation does not include any additional changes.

KUOW Staff

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29

State urges vigilance around youth suicide

3:30 p.m.— Washington state health officials are urging people to be on the lookout for signs of suicide risk among youth.

The pandemic has had a worsening effect on many people’s mental health, but winter weather, school closures, and lengthy periods of social isolation are having an especially negative effect on kids.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates one in four kids under the age of 18 has had suicidal thoughts since the pandemic began.

Health officials in Washington are now asking behavioral health care providers—like therapists and counselors—to routinely screen young people for suicide risk.

They should ask questions like: in the past week, have you had thoughts that you would be better off dead?

Providers are also being encouraged to have crisis resources available for families.

But since behavioral health care providers are seeing a surge in new patients because of the pandemic, it’s not easy to get appointments. Health officials say families should be prepared to wait.

Resources for patients and families (from the WA state Department of Health):

Washington Mental Health Crisis Services https://www.hca.wa.gov/health-care-services-supports/behavioral-health-recovery/mental-healthcrisis-lines

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-8255 (English) or 1-888-628-9454 (Español).

Crisis Text Line: Text HEAL to 741741.

Crisis Connections: Call 866-427-4747.

TeenLink: Call or text 866-833-6546.

Crisis Lines for Specific Groups https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/InjuryandViolencePrevention/SuicidePrevention/HotlinesTextandChatResources

Washington Warm Line: Call 877-500-9276.

WA Listens (support line for stress related to COVID-19): Call 1-833-681-0211.

Washington Recovery Help Line (help line for substance use): Call 1-866-789-1511 (24/7).

Washington State COVID-19 Response – Mental and emotional well-being webpage: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/mental-and-emotional-wellbeing

MONDAY, DECEMBER 28

Who's up next for vaccines? Washington state has yet to decide

4:51 p.m. — Health care workers, first responders, and people in nursing homes are at the front of the line for the coronavirus vaccine. Who’s up next? It’s not yet clear.

The state hasn’t yet decided who should get the next vaccines, and that’s stressing out hospital administrators, who say they need to know.

Vaccinating their own staff has already been logistically challenging, and if, say, teachers or agricultural workers come next, hospitals need to start reaching out to them and getting their vaccine appointments scheduled.

The state Department of Health told hospital administrators they hope to have guidance by the end of the week.

Eilis O'Neill

Schedule your second dose of the coronavirus vaccine for a Friday, Washington's hospitals tell their workers

4:45 p.m. — Washington’s hospitals are reporting that the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is going well.

Health care workers are getting vaccinated faster than expected.

And not many people who’ve gotten the first dose have had side effects that were severe enough that they missed any work, according to the Washington Hospital Association. That said, they’re watching what might happen with the second dose.

“For the second dose, we’re going to recommend that you plan to take a couple days off, get it at the end of your work week,” said Dr. Francis Riedo, a medical director at Evergreen Health in Kirkland.

He said most people won’t have much of a response, and those that do — “They just feel fatigued and achy and a little headachy,” he explained. It’s “tolerable — it’s just your immune system responding, probably evidence of a good immune response.”

Riedo said one group of people is having stronger responses to the first dose of the vaccine: people who’ve already had Covid-19. Because they’ve already been exposed to the virus, their bodies mount a stronger immune response.

--Eilis O'Neill

caption: Christy Carmichael, left, a physician assistant who was one of the primary medical staff members on site during the first week of the outbreak, closes her eyes as a bandaid is placed on her arm after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, December 28, 2020, at the Life Care Center of Kirkland.
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Christy Carmichael, left, a physician assistant who was one of the primary medical staff members on site during the first week of the outbreak, closes her eyes as a bandaid is placed on her arm after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, December 28, 2020, at the Life Care Center of Kirkland.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Life Care Center of Kirkland gets vaccinated against Covid-19

2:38 p.m. — A pharmacist stretched squeaky blue gloves over his fingers, and another rubbed an alcohol swab over the shoulder of Christy Carmichael and warned it was cold.

Carmichael is a physician assistant at Life Care Center and worked those early days of the outbreak. And now, she just got her first dose of Covid vaccine, along with most of the residents and staff at the facility.

“Are you ok?” the pharmacist asked.

“Yeah, I didn’t feel that at all,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael started to say how good she felt – and her voice catches.

Last week a resident at the nursing home was asking to get vaccinated too, she said.

“She’s really excited about this vaccination,” Carmichael remembered. “We talked about it every day; every time I come in. She’s keeps asking me, ‘So what would you get, the Pfizer or Moderna?’”

But that resident passed before she could see this day, Carmichael said.

“So this is for them, for the people who passed away too.”

Life Care Center of Kirkland was an early focal point for the Covid-19 outbreak in the region and the country. Forty-six people associated with the facility died from Covid-19. Nurse Alice Cortez worked long hours during the outbreak caring for sick patients.

“This vaccine is a gift of life. Whatever happened in the past, that is the past,” she said. “There is a better life ahead of us.”

On Monday Cortez got a dose of the Pfizer vaccine and a card from the CDC to prove it.

“I’m going to take a picture of my card and send it to my family back home, back to the Philippines and just spread the word how excited I am, how thankful I am,” Cortez said.

Today after each staff member got a dose of Pfizer vaccine, their coworkers cheered.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24

'When are we getting vaccinated?' WA senior homes with Covid outbreaks get no response

2 p.m. — Many senior living communities were expecting to begin Covid vaccinations next week. But many say they haven't gotten any specific information from CVS and Walgreens, who are to provide the vaccine.

Other retirement homes in the midst of an outbreak are being given Covid vaccination dates weeks in the future. They say time is precious and delays could cost lives.

CVS and Walgreens are partnering with the federal government to administer Covid vaccinations to residents and staff of long-term care facilities, which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the head of Covid vaccination planning for the Washington State Department of Health, Michele Roberts said on a media briefing that facilities registered with the CDC’s program would begin vaccinations on December 28th. CVS sent KUOW a press release saying the same thing.

Keep reading...

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

1.5 million people have activated Covid app

9 a.m. — State health officials say more than 1.5 million people have activated their settings for the WA Notify coronavirus app. The app allows anonymous users know if they've been around someone who has tested positive for the virus.

They're hoping more people will sign up.

The app has been going for three weeks, and Washington in the top five states for the percentage of people who have signed up.

The alerts work with the Bluetooth on smartphones. Android users can download the WA Notify app, and iPhone users can activate the notifications in their phone settings.

The state says the service is safe and does not jeopardize users data.

—Angela King, Casey Martin

More Covid vaccines coming next week

8:45 a.m. — More than 101,000 more Covid vaccines should be headed to Washington state next week, health officials say.

In the meantime, we are still dealing with a more limited supply than what was initially expected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week it was cutting our allotment by 40 percent, but the state says more than 30,000 frontline health care workers have already been vaccinated and vaccinations at long-term care facilities will begin next week.

—Angela King

Rep. Rick Larsen says he's tested positive for Covid-19

6:30 a.m. — Rick Larsen, the 55-year-old Democrat who represents parts of Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties tweeted yesterday that he's not experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus.

But he says he will quarantine in accordance with federal guidelines and is prepared to vote by proxy if necessary.

Larsen is the second congressional member from our state to test positive. Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse was diagnosed in November.

At least 45 members of Congress have tested positive for the virus and dozens of others have been exposed or tested positive for antibodies, according to a list compiled by GovTrack.

—Angela King

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23

WA eviction moratorium extended through March 2021

4:46 p.m. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has extended a temporary ban on evictions due to the nonpayment of rent through March 31, 2021.

The order, originally enacted in March 2020 to help renters economically impacted by the pandemic avoid becoming houseless, was previously set to expire before the new year.

The Governor's Office says it will release more details about the extended proclamation sometime next week.

Liz Brazile

WA hospitals brace for potential post-Christmas Covid surge

3:08 p.m. — Hospital officials in Washington are worried that the state could run out of hospital beds if there's a surge of critically ill Covid patients after the Christmas holiday, similar to the one that came after Thanksgiving.

A couple weeks after Thanksgiving, hospital beds in King County and statewide were nearly full. Washington’s hospitals have less wiggle room now than they did in late November.

Officials fear a similar surge in early January could force tough decisions about rationing care.

Mark Taylor keeps tabs on hospital capacity in the state. It's his job to make sure patients are moved to hospitals that have room for them. He said the possibility that Washington's hospitals could fill up is weighing on him.

"That sort of doomsday scenario is really what we’re trying to avoid," he said. "It's entirely possible."

Taylor said he's hopeful that people will spend Christmas at home, with their immediate households, to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Eilis O'Neill

How safe is the Covid-19 vaccine? UW doctor weighs in

11:52 a.m. — In short, Dr. Seth Cohen, medical director of infection prevention at UW Medical Center, says that he believes "the vaccines are effective and safe for essentially all groups of people and underwent a rigorous process of approval.”

But some folks are still wary about the vaccines which are the fastest-produced in history and are being rushed out to combat the pandemic. Dr. Cohen is helping with UW's campaign to get word out about the vaccines and answer any concerns.

"I think a lot of people are concerned that it's new and that there isn't a lot of safety data, I hear that a lot," Dr. Cohen said. "I would say, from my perspective ... Safety was not done at warp speed. It's really been a rigorous process. In this vaccine clinic, we have a lots of safety protocols in place and continue to follow people to ensure they are not experiencing additional side effects. So for the safety part of it, I feel very confident."

He says that we're lucky to have two similar vaccines available, and that they both have similar effective rates. So when pressed on which vaccine he would get, he says whichever is available.

"The main myths that I've heard are, one, can I get Covid from the vaccine? And the answer is, no, thankfully. The vaccine is not live and doesn't contain anything other than one protein in Covid. So we can put that one aside. The other myth is whether it works on people who might have suppressed immune systems, or people who come from diverse communities, or communities that are significantly impacted by Covid. Thankfully, a lot of those communities were represented in the studies of the vaccines. So I would say that the vaccine is effective for essentially all patient groups regardless of skin color or what you look like."

— Dyer Oxley

Seattle extends child care assistance through March 2021

11 a.m. — The city of Seattle is extending it's child care assistance relief program for eligible families through March.

The city will cover half of a family's copay costs if they're participating in the Department of Education and Early Learning’s (DEEL) and Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

Those who are scholarship-eligible in the Seattle Parks and Recreation child care program can also receive help.

The City covered 100% of child care copay costs for the final two months of 2020. Under the updated relief package, the city will cover 50% of family copays for three months. Copays are the portion families owe after their normal subsidies or scholarships have been applied. New families who sign up for either the CCAP or SPR programs will be eligible for 50% copay relief through March.

“We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has put an immense strain on so many Seattle families, and the transition to virtual learning has made the need for high-quality, affordable child care even more acute,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “The necessary extension of the statewide Covid-19 restrictions could exacerbate the financial hardship already experienced by so many Seattle families. The city of Seattle is covering the majority of costs for our high-quality child care through March, and we’re urging Seattle families to sign up now for this affordable, accessible child care option.”

— Angela King

Deadliest pandemic month in Snohomish County

10:30 a.m. — The past month in Snohomish County has been the deadliest thus far when it comes to the coronavirus.

The Everett Herald reports at least 89 people died between Nov. 15 and Dec. 12. That more deaths than what was recorded between June and November (the previous six months).

But on the flip side, the county's rolling Covid-19 case rate recently declined for the first time since September.

— Angela King

Gov. Inslee reflects on governing during a pandemic year

10 a.m. — A word of hope from Washington Governor Jay Inslee who says we should be in “decent shape” by spring so long as the vaccine production is sufficient.

Gov. Inslee was casual for an interview on TVW's Inside Olympia. He wore a vest and no tie while speaking from the governor’s residence with a shelf of books behind him. He said 2020 brought a mix of highs and lows. He called governing during a pandemic a burden.

“And I have to share that with you," Inslee said. "These have been very, very difficult decisions. And we have a lot more difficult decisions ahead of us.”

Inslee acknowledged the anger over some of those decisions, such as issuing a stay home order early on and more recently closing indoor dining.

“There is a reason that people are upset," he said. "Their lives have been disrupted significantly. The businesses have been disrupted significantly.”

But the Democratic governor said he acted constitutionally and that Washington’s approach had saved thousands of lives. He noted Washington has an infection rate lower than 45 other states. With the arrival of vaccines, Inslee says we’re now approaching safe harbor. But he also cautioned we’re not there yet.

— Austin Jenkins

Two more self-serve coronavirus testing kiosks open in Seattle

9:30 a.m. — The city of Seattle is opening more coronavirus testing kiosks, where you can walk up, collect your own oral swab, and leave it for testing.

Two kiosks near lower Woodland Park and the Seattle Center opened Tuesday. A third opens Saturday at the old UW laundry site near the Mt. Baker Light Rail Station.

They'll be open Monday through Saturday and an expert will be on hand to help users. Results will be delivered electronically within 48 hours.

You're asked to register online first. There are now more than a dozen free Covid testing sites in King County.

— Paige Browning

Holiday travel

9 a.m. — Holiday travel has slowed down significantly this season compared to last year. But with rising Covid-19 cases, it may not be enough.

"This holiday, you typically see people take off as early as the weekend before the holiday," said Perry Cooper with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

He says travel is projected to be a little higher than what we saw over Thanksgiving. That has led to an uptick in cases.

"We're expecting about an average of 46,000 to 48,000 passengers overall per day going through the terminal," Cooper said.

Cooper encourages travelers to stay home if they’re feeling sick, but otherwise he said Sea-Tac will be open.

Health officials ask the public to limit non-essential travel.

Governor Jay Inslee’s travel advisory also asks people to self quarantine for 10 days after their travels to limit the spread of the virus.

— Esmy Jimenez

Leavenworth weighs the holiday traffic and the pandemic

8 a.m. — Thousands of families are flocking to Leavenworth looking to find some Christmas cheer during the pandemic. But all that traffic is clogging up the local highway each weekend. Now the Bavarian-style town's mayor is saying it’s hard to turn down all the business, but it's better to wait until next year.

Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea says he doesn’t know many Northwest towns that are as dependent on winter tourism as his. And lately, reduced business from this season is taking a toll on shop owners.

“I know somebody that has sold their home and basically are living at their shop to keep it afloat long enough to try to get through this," Florea said.

Now on weekends, there are an estimated 10,000 people in downtown Leavenworth, eating at to-go dinners in the cold.

Viral experts say that staying out of large crowds is the safest option, even outside.

— Anna King

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22

Moderna vaccine has arrived in Washington; more on the way

Noon — Moderna's new Covid-19 vaccine has already arrived in Washington state and more is on the way. The Seattle Indian Health Board received 500 doses on Monday, which will be given to frontline workers first.

The Washington State Hospital Association says it expects to receive 128,000 Moderna doses this week. They will be provided not only to hospitals, but to public health departments, primary care facilities, and private medical groups. That's because it's easier to store than the Pfizer vaccine which needs to be kept in ultra deep freezers. The Pfizer vaccine will be aimed at hospitals which have those freezers.

The state also expects to get an additional 45,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTec vaccine this week. In total, the state is expecting to get about 180,000 more doses of vaccines — Moderna and Pfizer combined — this week.

— Angela King

Church attendance requirement converted into recommendation

11 a.m. — Washington state is removing its required attendance caps on church services, weddings, and funerals. Instead, it's now a recommendation.

Indoor services had been limited to 200 people, or 25% capacity, whichever is fewer. But now that requirement is being turned into a recommendation.

Governor Jay Inslee says he's making the change in response to a federal court ruling earlier this month that struck down some attendance caps.

— Angela King

New quarantine requirement for travelers from UK, South Africa

10 a.m. — Get off the plane from London and go into quarantine for two weeks, effective immediately. And get a test for Covid-19.

A new and apparently more contagious variant of the coronavirus is prompting Washington state to impose a quarantine on those arriving from Britain and South Africa, and maybe more countries to come. The quarantine requirement is an emergency order from Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist says this mutation is not present locally, as far as anyone knows.

"We are being conservative by doing this travel restriction," Dr. Lindquist said. "This is not a ban on travel, but we are very clearly encouraging people to get tested, to do quarantine for 14 days until we have a better understanding of this virus worldwide and here in Washington state."

Sea-Tac Airport used to have three or four direct flights from London per day and Portland had two more, but now in the pandemic there's only one combined. There are no direct flights between the Pacific Northwest and South Africa.

Read more details here.

— Tom Banse

Seattle senior living community gets vaccine

9 a.m. — The Covid-19 vaccinations continue to rollout in Washington state with the first residents and staff members of senior living communities getting doses this week.

Parkshore in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood was the first retirement community to get vaccinated. Flor Craig is the assisted living manager there. She got vaccinated Monday and also gave seniors their shots while placing her palm on their shoulder to offer a prayer.

"I just said that, ‘Lord above, this Covid vaccine that I am giving to this resident will help us prevent this disease from getting to this person,'" Craig said.

Craig says the vaccines are the best Christmas present senior living residents could get.

No one has gotten Covid at Parkshore, but cases continue to rise in long-term care facilities across Washington.

Read more details here.

— Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Second patient from Western State Hospital dies of Covid-19

8 a.m. — A second patient from Western State Psychiatric Hospital has died of Covid-19.

The State Department of Social and Health Services says the person died after spending several weeks at a local hospital.

There are currently eight patients and nine employees at Western State who have Covid-19.

— Angela King

Seattle small businesses eager for stimulus details

7 a.m. — Small business are expecting to get more help to pay their employees now that Congress has passed a $900 billion stimulus package.

Beth Barrett is artistic director of the Seattle International Film Festival. Like many other businesses and non-profits around the Seattle area, her organization is hopeful that the federal stimulus bill will include money to help nonprofits and cultural institutions plan for a post-pandemic future.

But few people know everything that's in the bill, as the final language was only shown to legislators a few hours before Monday's vote.

"The stimulus is so exciting. I can't wait to read what it actually looks like," Barrett said. "But, it's like, 'Oh, my god, the government might be giving us money! That's awesome!'"

We do know that the stimulus bill includes $600 checks to most people, and an extra $300 a week to people who are unemployed.

More details here.

— Kim Sheperd

MONDAY, DECEMBER 21

Inslee tightens WA travel restrictions following new coronavirus strain revelations in U.K., South Africa

4:32 p.m. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday announced a new, 14-day quarantine requirement for people traveling into the state from the United Kingdom and South Africa, where mutated strains of the coronavirus have recently driven surges in Covid-19 cases.

While much still remains unknown about the variants, scientists have pointed to evidence suggesting both could be more infectious — but not necessarily more deadly — than the strain originally behind the Covid-19 pandemic.

Washington's new proclamation means that people heading into the state from the U.K. and South Africa must isolate for 14 days upon their return. It does not, however, ban travel from the regions altogether —that degree of restriction would need to be ordered at the federal level, Inslee said.

That hasn't happened.

"We've acted fairly quickly because we have found that, if you're behind this virus, it's just too late," Inslee said, adding that . "So this is what science tells us and we're following science as quickly as we can."

An increasing number of countries have temporarily banned travel from the U.K. and South Africa, in the wake of Covid-19 spikes caused by new variants of the coronavirus.

Dr. Trevor Bedford, an epidemiologist with Fred Hutch's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, outlined the most recent findings about the strain impacting the U.K.

"There are some mutations that, by themselves, look biologically interesting, look relevant, look important," Bedford said. "That just from seeing those mutations in the sequence, you think that they could change the function of the virus to some degree."

Read more here.

Liz Brazile

$2M fine for central Washington farm that allegedly refused to safely house, transport temporary workers

2 p.m. — Washington's Labor and Industries Department has issued one of the largest workplace and safety fines in its history after an investigation found a range of pandemic violations at a central Washington farm, according to the department.

Gebbers Farm Operations in Brewster, Wash. has been fined $2,038,200. L&I calls the violations "egregious" and "willful."

After two workers died in relation to Covid-19, and a series of complaints from the farm's workers, L&I launched an investigation in July. The department reports that it found "dozens" of health and safety violations. Specifically, L&I says the farm operation did not house or transport farm workers in compliance with state instructions during the pandemic, leaving them to unsafely cluster in environments that the virus could thrive in. Hundreds of temporary workers were sleeping in bunk beds kept close together.

A total of 24 violations were found; each come with a penalty of $84,000. Despite the presence of L&I investigators, the department says the farm continued to operate as it pleased, further placing workers in danger.

Workers reported that farm operators left two temporary workers to die from the virus in their cabins and did not report the deaths as required.

“This farm clearly understood the steps they were required to take to keep workers safe and prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “Gebbers made it very apparent to investigators they had no intention of following the rules as written regarding temporary agricultural worker housing and transportation."

The farm was also fined $13,200 in May after a previous complaint about a lack of social distancing and other unsafe working conditions.

Gebbers Farm has 15 days to appeal the fines.

Gebbers Farm primarily deals in apples, cherries, and pears.

— Dyer Oxley

Please only use ferries for essential holiday travel

12:25 p.m. — Officials with Washington State Ferries are asking you only hop onboard this holiday season if your travel is deemed essential.

They want to reduce potential spread of the coronavirus amid a time that is expected to prompt another surge.

They're also warning of possible delays and changes to the sailing schedules because of crew availability during the pandemic.

— Angela King

Moderna vaccine approved and coming to Washington

Noon — Shipments of Moderna's newly-approved coronavirus vaccine could start arriving in Washington state this week. Last week, it was reported that Washington expects to receive 128,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

A workgroup of vaccine specialists from California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington gave it the green light Sunday. That clears the way for Washington to start getting its second coronavirus vaccine.

Last week, the CDC told Washington leaders the upcoming shipment of the Pfizer's vaccine would be reduced by 40%. No explanation as to why, but the governor's office says there’s “no indication” more reductions are “likely to occur.”

— Angela King

CVS to administer Covid-19 vaccine at WA long-term care facilities next week

10:37 a.m. — Starting December 28, CVS Health is to begin vaccinating residents of 771 assisted living and nursing facilities across Washington state.

The nationwide vaccination program, using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, launches in 12 other states this week. CVS says it anticpates vaccinating up to 4 million residents and staff at more than 40,000 long-term care institutions through the roughly 12-week program.

The vaccinations at each facility are slated to take place over the course of three to four weeks, with each recipient getting an initial shoot and second booster shot.

CVS says it has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand its vaccination efforts to the general public in 2021, but has not yet shared details about a specific launch date.

—Liz Brazile

Doctor's experience with the vaccine

9:30 a.m. — Thousands of healthcare workers in Washington state have received the coronavirus vaccine since it was rolled out last week.

Swedish Health services says it's used its entire first shipment of Pfizer's vaccine — more than 5,500 doses. Swedish is now waiting for more doses.

Dr. Preethi Balakrishnan is one such Swedish doctor who received a dose of the vaccine. When the pandemic was raging through the Northwest in April, Dr. Balakrishnan was rotating through six Swedish intensive care units, and was feeling stressed. Even though cases are currently surging again, she now feels a sense of relief.

"People are more tired, they are kind of more worn out, from everything else that has happened this year," Dr. Balakrishnan said. "And I think having the vaccine has really given us a second burst of wind under our wings. It feels like the end is near."

Balakrishnan says some of her colleagues are eager to get the vaccine. Others are hesitating, and she has had a lot of conversations about the risks of the vaccine versus the risks of getting Covid-19.

For the general population, though, she says it should be an easier decision, because they get to watch how the vaccine is affecting those who are going first.

"There are so many of us who have gotten it and who have been frank about it, and it’s not like we feel like a million bucks but we feel pretty good," Dr. Balakrishnan said.

For her, the shot has meant a sore arm, grogginess and a slight headache the next day. But she says it feels about the same as getting a bad night’s sleep.

— Deborah Wang

Bloodworks Northwest testing donations for coronavirus antibodies

8 a.m. — The Northwest's largest blood bank, Bloodworks Northwest, says all donations will be tested for Covid-19 antibodies throughout the rest of December.

The goal is to identify those who have recovered from Covid-19, especially people who may not have known they were infected in the first place.

"Say, you felt bad back in March or April or you didn't know -- you may have been asymptomatic, now, you'll find out if you have the antibodies," said John Yeager with Bloodworks Northwest. "If you qualify, you can help somebody suffering with it."

Antibodies from blood donations have the potential to be used for convalescent plasma therapy. That's where blood from a recovered patient is used to boost the immune response of a hospitalized patient.

During the pandemic, blood donation centers are typically operating on an appointment-only basis. So, book ahead if you want to give blood over the holiday.

— Derek Wang


Read previous updates here